Rutgers: We’re making college free, or low-cost, as a way to transform lives | Opinion

Published: Feb. 28, 2022

By Francine Conway

It’s an exciting time in New Jersey for thousands of high school students who have wondered how they will afford the cost of a college education and pursue their life’s dream.

Starting today, approximately 3,400 students will begin seeing financial aid award letters from Rutgers–New Brunswick arrive in their mailboxes that will allow them to attend the university either tuition-free or at greatly reduced cost.

Our sweeping program, the Scarlet Guarantee, will make a Rutgers–New Brunswick education affordable and accessible to students with the greatest financial need. Beginning in the fall, first- and second-year students will attend tuition-free if their family’s adjusted gross income is $65,000 or less. Those whose income is between $65,001 and $100,000 will see significant reductions in tuition and fees.

And, although the Scarlet Guarantee is limited to first- and second-year students, those who qualify will also benefit from the Garden State Guarantee, a statewide program launched last month by Gov. Phil Murphy, which offers similar financial benefits to third- and fourth-year students.

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, an advocate for access to higher education, has called our new program and existing programs at Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden transformational — not just for the qualified students who will realize their dreams, but for our entire university community as they help us become even richer and more diverse.

In combination, the Scarlet Guarantee and Garden State Guarantee will make a premier Rutgers education accessible to admitted students — with all the opportunities that come from attending a world-class research institution. From here, the possibilities are endless. We expect more than 20% of our undergraduate students to benefit from these programs.

Making college accessible and affordable is deeply personal for me. I grew up in Guyana in a limited-income household and was the first in my family to attend college. I had known for as long as I could remember that education would enable me to lift myself and my family out of poverty and make a difference for others in similar circumstances.

Now, as a leader at Rutgers, I see myself in the faces of bright, hardworking students who want to succeed — but aren’t sure how to get past the costs.

We know that a Rutgers education is a springboard for these students to limitless opportunities, but practically it makes financial sense for us all. Limited-income students who graduate with a four-year degree become tax-paying citizens who work to better the communities in which they live. And they are far less likely to be dependent on social service programs.

I am tremendously proud that Rutgers and the state of New Jersey recognize the transformational change these financial aid programs will have on the lives of thousands of students and their families. And I’m equally excited when I think about those students opening their mailboxes today to find the final piece of their college decision puzzle: their financial aid award letter from Rutgers–New Brunswick and the realization that a college education from one of the world’s best universities is within reach.

It is a good day not just for those students and their families, but for all of New Jersey.

Francine Conway, Ph.D., is the chancellor-provost of Rutgers-New Brunswick.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-01 02:27:50 -0800